Top critical review
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Strong story - weak heroine
on 24 January 2009
This was a strange combination. The story is well written and readable but oh! how our 'heroine' Miss Purdy made me cross! What drew me originally to the book was that Miss P, the product of a respectable, middle-class family, put aside the opinion of her parents and left home to teach in a school in the inner-city of Birmingham. I thought the story would show us how she made a difference to the lives of these children. I thought I was getting a story about a strong female character but, in truth, she was just a dithering, love-sick girl who followed others blindly.
I longed to read more of Joey Phillip's character because he packed more sorrow and suffering into his little life than Miss P could ever hope to cope with. That the child 'dreamed' of Miss P whilst he lay starving and delirious seemed totally unrealistic. The woman hadn't done much to make a difference to his sad little life.
I also think Miss P's fellow teaching colleague, Lily Drysdale, should have had a much bigger part in the book - she certainly had more about her than wishy-washy Miss P and, indeed, if it hadn't been for Lily, then Joey and his family probably wouldn't have appeared on Miss P's emotional radar at all. Even the scatty landlady Ariadne had a certain sparkle and charm!
From a historical perspective, the story told us a lot about the Communist Party and the hardship of the miners in the Welsh pit villages in the 1930s but again, the character of Daniel, Miss P's squeeze and 'fighter for the cause of justice for the poor of his homeland' was totally unlikeable and I had no sympathy for him whatsoever.
Still, I did finish the book so it had something going for it!